Of Goalies and Sermons: the mystery and challenge of presence…

This weekend was filled with events that have left me pondering that “being fully present” is actually a lot harder than it appears. I’ve heard it said that “showing up” is 80% of the battle with any endeavor, but soccer, hockey, and preaching, have all shown me that showing up requires more than just showing up.

Our local Sounders played soccer on Saturday, but “played” would be too polite of a term.  They were physically present, but their performance was stunk the stadium up so bad that the team apologized and offered a refund to season ticket holders who renew next year.  They were there, but they just weren’t there.

On Friday night, as I was putting the finishing touches on a book manuscript (the book will be out about a year from now, more later), I was listening to the Canucks hockey game on the radio, and the biased (in favor of the Canadian “Canucks”) commentators said, “this team is just playing terrible – it’s as if they’re not really all here”. I’d written them off, as their loss put them down 3-1 heading back to Chicago, but when I arrived home from the evening worship service last night, I watched the final few minutes of the game where, on the road, the Canadian team utterly dominated.  Other than the number on the jersey, you have thought that they had a different goalie; brilliant and timely saves.  Throw in smothering defense, relentless offense, and we’re going to game 6 tomorrow night.

And then there’s preaching.  I felt like I hit a home run yesterday morning at 9AM.  It felt a little bit less at 11.  Then I was taking a ‘short nap’ in the afternoon, and woke up too late, slept too long.  The evening teaching felt forced, tired, uninspired.  Same notes as the morning, and I was certainly there, just like the goalie was there Friday night and Sunday night – but different was enormous.

I’m learning that showing up means more than showing up.  Showing up means being fully present, means bringing the very best that you can bring to the moments when the very best is required of you.  Increasingly, I’m convinced that this doesn’t happen by accident.  We can’t bring our “A” game to every moment – 24/7.  We need to learn rest, to learn how to relax, to have recovery time so that when we need to preach at our best, or be the best goalie possible, we’re all there.

Perhaps this means that the disciplines of rest and recovery are as vital as the disciplines of performance.  We shoot people, and we shoot ourselves, for not bringing our “A” game all the time.  Maybe we need to start examining how we spend our down time. Endless activities, and a full serving of “Glee”, “Modern Family” and “SNL” might not be the best way to fill our tanks.  We might need a little silence, a little solitude, and little time in creation, not to mention some healthy food.

I welcome your thoughts…

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • Lisa

    Glad I made it the 9am service! I agree – being a little selfish in taking care of oneself actually makes space to be able to be present with Christ, and through that, be present with others. A karate teacher once told me I should always act from a position of strength – if I’m feeling weak, it is far better to retreat, then return twhen I’ve regained my strength. Choosing to do that isn’t always that easy, however. In yoga we practice listening to our bodies, understanding that energy levels fluctuate from day to day, and “retreating” to child’s pose when our body needs to rest.

  • Nacole

    I had what I call a “functional nervous breakdown” about a week ago. I kicked everyone out of my life, including my roomate’s dog. After having slept for 15 hours, then watching tv all day long, I felt physically rested but still mentally crazy. So I took Monday off and spent an entire day by myself at Alki walking, singing, praying, shopping, and looking at the beautiful scenery. I felt more rested in this one day than the entire weekend of media and laziness. Amazing how quickly I snapped out of it by finally giving my body what it needed. Thanks for your post, this rings very true for me.

  • http://otherwisedelightful.blogspot.com rebecca

    I missed this last sunday, but my in-laws were at the 11 am service and thought it was one of the best sermons they’ve heard in years, from anyone. So apparently, your “B” game is very good. :)

    That said, I fully agree with your notion of restful be-ing and self-care, and the restoration that is only possible therein. America needs more of these things, that’s for sure. We seem to fluctuate between crazy busy and utterly catatonic. Balance is not our strong suit. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • NS

    I was at the 11am, and you definitely hit a home run there. Don’t get yourself down about that… It was great. I know I am in the right place when I hear your sermons, and I know it’s gonna be a good one when the first 10 words out of your mouth make me feel like I’m going to get called out during the whole time – which I did.

    Thanks Richard – just know that you’re awesome.


Of Goalies and Sermons: the mystery and challenge of presence…

This weekend was filled with events that have left me pondering that “being fully present” is actually a lot harder than it appears. I’ve heard it said that “showing up” is 80% of the battle with any endeavor, but soccer, hockey, and preaching, have all shown me that showing up requires more than just showing up.

Our local Sounders played soccer on Saturday, but “played” would be too polite of a term.  They were physically present, but their performance was stunk the stadium up so bad that the team apologized and offered a refund to season ticket holders who renew next year.  They were there, but they just weren’t there.

On Friday night, as I was putting the finishing touches on a book manuscript (the book will be out about a year from now, more later), I was listening to the Canucks hockey game on the radio, and the biased (in favor of the Canadian “Canucks”) commentators said, “this team is just playing terrible – it’s as if they’re not really all here”. I’d written them off, as their loss put them down 3-1 heading back to Chicago, but when I arrived home from the evening worship service last night, I watched the final few minutes of the game where, on the road, the Canadian team utterly dominated.  Other than the number on the jersey, you have thought that they had a different goalie; brilliant and timely saves.  Throw in smothering defense, relentless offense, and we’re going to game 6 tomorrow night.

And then there’s preaching.  I felt like I hit a home run yesterday morning at 9AM.  It felt a little bit less at 11.  Then I was taking a ‘short nap’ in the afternoon, and woke up too late, slept too long.  The evening teaching felt forced, tired, uninspired.  Same notes as the morning, and I was certainly there, just like the goalie was there Friday night and Sunday night – but different was enormous.

I’m learning that showing up means more than showing up.  Showing up means being fully present, means bringing the very best that you can bring to the moments when the very best is required of you.  Increasingly, I’m convinced that this doesn’t happen by accident.  We can’t bring our “A” game to every moment – 24/7.  We need to learn rest, to learn how to relax, to have recovery time so that when we need to preach at our best, or be the best goalie possible, we’re all there.

Perhaps this means that the disciplines of rest and recovery are as vital as the disciplines of performance.  We shoot people, and we shoot ourselves, for not bringing our “A” game all the time.  Maybe we need to start examining how we spend our down time. Endless activities, and a full serving of “Glee”, “Modern Family” and “SNL” might not be the best way to fill our tanks.  We might need a little silence, a little solitude, and little time in creation, not to mention some healthy food.

I welcome your thoughts…

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • Lisa

    Glad I made it the 9am service! I agree – being a little selfish in taking care of oneself actually makes space to be able to be present with Christ, and through that, be present with others. A karate teacher once told me I should always act from a position of strength – if I’m feeling weak, it is far better to retreat, then return twhen I’ve regained my strength. Choosing to do that isn’t always that easy, however. In yoga we practice listening to our bodies, understanding that energy levels fluctuate from day to day, and “retreating” to child’s pose when our body needs to rest.

  • Nacole

    I had what I call a “functional nervous breakdown” about a week ago. I kicked everyone out of my life, including my roomate’s dog. After having slept for 15 hours, then watching tv all day long, I felt physically rested but still mentally crazy. So I took Monday off and spent an entire day by myself at Alki walking, singing, praying, shopping, and looking at the beautiful scenery. I felt more rested in this one day than the entire weekend of media and laziness. Amazing how quickly I snapped out of it by finally giving my body what it needed. Thanks for your post, this rings very true for me.

  • http://otherwisedelightful.blogspot.com rebecca

    I missed this last sunday, but my in-laws were at the 11 am service and thought it was one of the best sermons they’ve heard in years, from anyone. So apparently, your “B” game is very good. :)

    That said, I fully agree with your notion of restful be-ing and self-care, and the restoration that is only possible therein. America needs more of these things, that’s for sure. We seem to fluctuate between crazy busy and utterly catatonic. Balance is not our strong suit. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • NS

    I was at the 11am, and you definitely hit a home run there. Don’t get yourself down about that… It was great. I know I am in the right place when I hear your sermons, and I know it’s gonna be a good one when the first 10 words out of your mouth make me feel like I’m going to get called out during the whole time – which I did.

    Thanks Richard – just know that you’re awesome.


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